Opening the Senate confirmation hearing for CIA director nominee John Brennan, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) offered a mini panegyric to drone strikes. She lamented the secrecy surrounding the CIA’s drone program as she wanted to be able to speak more openly about its successes and the minimal collateral damage of drone wars. She stated that civilian casualties caused by U.S. drone strikes each year has “typically been in the single digits.”
Later in the hearing, Brennan rejected claims that drone strikes were provoking a backlash of anti-American sentiment. He said citizens are instead grateful to be rescued from the grip of al-Qaida. But commentators have been swift to challenge Feinstein’s claims based on contradicting open-source reports and studies. As both the Washington Post and the Guardian note, civilian death numbers are difficult to tabulate with certainty (indeed, the very question of how the administration categorizes “civilian” or “enemy combatant” is in itself contentious). Suffice to say that Feinstein’s “single digits” comments stands at odds with others’ findings.
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